Why Can’t I Bike My Way Home?

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On May 4th 2015, it was 6:30 PM in the evening and after a long and tiring day at the office I was on my way back. For your information my mobility – to and from the office – is completely dependent on a van, which unfortunately also happens to be a Taxi. Just to clarify, with no other safe option available it’s a norm for office going women like me to avail Taxi service.

We are four young women who have just graduated and have dreams for a brave new world.

Here we have a small twist, Mr. Taxi Driver is very fond of chipping in a comment or two, so to ward off such situations the standard procedure is that as soon as the van picks me or any of my fellow comrades we simply plug in ear phones and quietly enjoy music without intruding into one another’s private musings.

That day, on my way home I was toying with my thoughts, shuffling through stuff waiting to be finished. The list included buying books for my online Bookstore, tutoring my youngest sibling Math and English, and to top it all getting into my car and drive through rough traffic that always welcomes me whenever I have to visit Saddar, Rawalpindi. Oh, and did I forget the remaining episodes of Marvel Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D that I was planning to enjoy with yummylicious home cooked food.

Its days like these when reaching Peshawar road is some consolation that home is not so far away now. Life was all rainbows and unicorns and then all of a sudden our van stopped. It took me a few seconds to register all that commotion around our taxi. The taxi driver was out of the taxi, on the road, hitting and abusing another taxi driver. Apparently one of them, I don’t know which one, tried to take over the other.

For next 15 minutes we watched this circus with our eyeballs popping out. Eventually a van fellow who also happens to be a friend said to me, “Hey, I know you can drive. Why don’t you pull the car off the road and park it alongside footpath?” While we were having this conversation, on the road both taxi drivers were still running and beating each other, simultaneously trying to prove who’s family lineage was better and who happens to be the descendant of Mughal’s or Prophet.

I don’t know what came over me or what stopped me from driving that taxi, although the driver had forgotten to take out the key. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. However, this very incident prompted me to write this article.

Women in Pakistan face discrimination and segregation in almost all spheres of life. We are often sidelined in the decision making process even in the matters concerning our own well-being. We are mostly considered deaf, blind and spineless and are anticipated to melt our personalities into the web of assigned and expected roles. However, I believe that the biggest impediment to women participating, or being allowed to participate in different spheres of life is the harassment they have to face. We face harassment in market place, at bus stops, at work place and the list goes on. But sadly, whenever anyone stands up to take cudgels against such obnoxious behavior the patriarchal mindset comes into play.

Who should we complain or who is to be blamed for situations like this, where male taxi drivers find satisfaction in disgusting display of their manhood. The point to highlight here is that, had there been a decent public transport system in place, office going women like me wouldn’t have been at the mercy of these Taxi drivers.

However, what I am taking away with me is that we young women will have to break these shackles of patriarchal mindset. We will have to do what I wasn’t able to do that day – drive taxis like brave Zahida Kazmi, support schemes like Pink Rickshaw and drive bikes like thousands of courageous Indian Women. We will have to stop worrying about what people say and start doing what we really want to do. As young trendsetters we shouldn’t be deterred by the age-old mindset.

Public Service Message

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